Category Archives: gender stereotypes

Why “If Mama Ain’t Happy, Nobody’s Happy” is a Bullshit Lie I Live

IMG_6863There comes a time in you life when you are doing something really mundane, like going on your daily run, when you realize,

Shit.  I’ve been selling out.  I’ve been settling.  I’ve been settling for behavior from others and myself.

And there are layers to these epiphanies.  My first one?  Came when I realized I wanted to recover from my eating disorder.   My second?  When I wanted more from my life than forgetting the night before because of too many rum and cokes.

My 45th came today when I realized I don’t want to yell anymore.  And I don’t want a partner who yells either.

*****

I am a mother.

I am a wife.

I am a co-owner of a business.

I have a shit ton of stress.

Because, as a woman, I’m expected to “do it all”.  So not only do I manage the money, I make the majority of the money upfront, and I also am expected to do all of the housework, manage my child’s appointments, playdates, extracurricular activities AND manage the psychological well-being of my child.

It was very furtive, wasn’t it?  How, in the span of 70 years, men have continued to deftly sidestep responsibility in any way they can.  Shit, I have to chores now? Guess I can still be lazy emotionally.  Sweet.

Before any right-wing idiot or plainly, insecure men jump down my throat, I want you to do something.  Walk up to the woman in your life.  Ask her what she’s worried about.  Chances are, her experience will be more rich than yours. She’ll be worried about being able to schedule their child’s gasto-intestinal appointment in between the clients she sees.  She’ll be thinking about how her husband yelling at their child mimics the traumatic experience she had as a child and how she’s failing.  She’ll be wondering if she can work out while the baby sleeps because somewhere, in the back corners of her mind, a demon tells her to be attractive for her boyfriend.  Now ask yourself if you have those same thoughts.

The pressures are not equal. NOT.  YET.

So when I hear, “If Mama Ain’t Happy, Nobody’s Happy”, I want to scream.

Why?

Seems to be yet another misogynistic turn of phrase, so eloquently masked as feminism.  It’s misogynistic, because it puts all the pressure on the female to chart the course, when males are perfectly capable of doing some of the emotional work. They’re perfectly capable of putting themselves first, taking care of themselves so they don’t take it out on their children.

It’s just that we haven’t EXPECTED them to, since the dawn of time.

And it reinforces that disgusting, martyr-like dynamic in older women that I despise. “Poor me, I’ve put up with so much from your father.”

EXACTLY.  You put up with it. You’ve enabled it.  Women have enabled it.  And that’s our part.  And that can be changed.

*****

Am I a sanctimommy who expects herself or others to never yell?  No.  But let me tell the truth and talk about yelling, because a lot of us have a ton of shame over it.  And it’s important to talk about during this time of year, when kids are going back to school and transitions are driving us parents nuts.

We’ve been yelling too much in my house.  I know my part – part of me has been justifying my and my husband’s trauma histories.  A refined form of “If we were ok, then she’ll be ok.”  “I’m a good parent.” “I’m doing the best I can.”

Maybe I’m fucking not.

Maybe I’ve been enabling years and years of the masculine approach to things.  The masculine approach of anger, of forcefulness, of yelling.

All I know is, This Mama Ain’t Happy.  Period.  And I’ve been justifying stuff I’m not OK with.   That’s my part.

And it’s my husband’s job to work on his.

A Thank You Note To My Bullies

You know, I’ve been rude.

And it’s time I apologize.  I’m sorry.

I never thanked all the bullies at my high school for the wisdom they unknowingly passed on to me through their years of emotional and physical abuse.  I never expressed gratitude for the lessons I was lucky enough to learn early on in life.

So, if you were one of the people who hurt me because you were probably so cruelly abused and hurt yourself, and you’ve been waiting for a nod of recognition, here goes.

To the little boy down the street who was friends with me when my mother was around, but refused to sit in a chair I sat in at school, exclaiming, “I won’t touch it if fatty sat there!”, thank you.  Not only did you teach me that the separation between “pretty” and “ugly” starts early, but you taught me to pick my friends as carefully as one balances on a tight-rope wire.  You taught me to beware of people’s masks, and that some are really good at hiding their true selves behind that mask.

To the boy I had a crush on who wouldn’t clap for me when I got a music award in the seventh grade because I was simply, “Amanda Bruce”:  thank you.  You taught me compassion.  Why?  You were nice to me when it was just you and me at our lockers, but ignored me when you were around your friends.  In the end, I felt bad for you, because it was probably really hard to be a nice, popular kid who felt pressured by his friends to do what they did.

To the girl who called me “Turtle” since I appeared slow to her because of my size, I bow in gratitude.  First of all, you made me hyperaware of my size and lack of coordination.  I bought into the belief that I couldn’t do anything athletically for a very long time.  So much so that I developed an eating disorder because I was ashamed of my body’s appearance and what it couldn’t do.  And then, years later, I would have to go into treatment and take a very hard, long look at myself and those beliefs.  It would take awhile, but I would then realize they were bullshit.  I would start to run.  I would start to love it.  And finally, I would run for not what my body looked like, but for my internal sense of peace.

There’s a second part of my thanks to you, Turtle girl: thank you for calling me “a slut” and “too fat to wear leggings” at a school dance.  That night, I came home from the dance and cried.  My mother cried too, for a long time, because her baby had a horrible time at one of her first junior high school dances.  That night, the bond between my mother and I became stronger than ever.  I wonder if you ever had a night like that with your mother.  I’m grateful I did.  And you know what?  I hate the word SLUT because of you.  I won’t call another female it because it’s an incorrect, stereotyped, misogynistic word.  Thank you for inspiring the power of feminism in me.

To the boy who invaded my boundaries and tried to touch my leg repeatedly in music class: many thanks.  Because you viewed me as beneath you due to my weight, you felt you could attempt to harass me.  And you did, then.  But now?  My boundaries are rock-solid.  They were too solid for awhile, and I didn’t let many people in.  But now people can’t take advantage of me even when I share things like this.  Why?  Because I know how to take care of myself and defend myself.  I have turned the ugliness into beauty, and into love, and no one can take advantage of that.

To the adults in my life who didn’t stop the bullying when it happened:  I am grateful.  Because of you, I am the fiercest mama lion to my beautiful daughter.  You showed me exactly how not to be around children who are victimized.  When you forced me to stand up to eat lunch because you wouldn’t consequence the kids who wouldn’t let me sit with them on a field trip, you saved another kid from being bullied on the playground twentyish years later.  Because even on a nannying job in grad school, I kept my eye out for the kid on the playground who wasn’t treated fairly.  And you’ve also taught me to take a step back and let my daughter defend herself when she needs to.  You’ve taught me to not be an over-involved parent who screws up her child.

You see, I’ve spent years feeling tortured, controlled, and dominated by these memories.  Until I realized that a whole lot of love can emerge from hate, if we have the courage to stop and lead an examined life.

So on this Spirit Day, where we raise awareness for bullying, I salute you, bullies.  I acknowledge what you’ve been through and have compassion for it.  I can’t possibly understand the depths of your life experience.

I will, however, see your hate, and raise you with understanding and change.

Shake What Your Momma Gave Ya.

Yesterday, I was inspired to resurrect an old head scarf I used to wear all the time when I lived in Amherst.  One of my close friends, Devin, had started wearing head scarves and bandannas recently, and I wanted to look as cute as she did.  The fam and I were on our way to Boston’s trendy SoWa open market, and I wanted to dress up.  It’s a big deal, these days, you know.  Dressing up when you’re a Mama.

So I donned a long summer dress, drop earrings, and a paisley head scarf.  I indulgently took this ridiculous duckface selfie, complete with seat belt:

bohoselfie

 

What’s important to note about the scarf, is that it was my Nana’s.  She passed away in 2003, and I gratefully received this after she died, along with a few other cherished jewelry pieces.  It got me thinking about what she, and my mother, and the women before them had to go through to let me be as strong as I am today about this whole body image thing.

A little backstory:

This is what I was told about my Nana: she was born in Ireland and came to the US when she was a baby.  She was adopted by a family over here, and worked fairly young, as her family was not, let’s say, the Kardashians.  One thing that always made me smile was the stories my mother would tell me about her trips into Boston as a teen.  She would take the train into Boston by herself, walk around the city, and buy a trinket with the little money she had.  She seemed fiercely tough and independent, and I identify with that.  Anywho, she married my Grampy, and worked tirelessly as a housekeeper while raising seven kids.  One of them being my mother.

My mother often tells me, “When I was a kid, we didn’t think there was any other choice than marrying and raising kids.  That was just what you did.”  And she’s right.  Were there some women going to college in the mid-sixties?  Sure.  But not like there are today.  In 1965, Betty Friedan truly hadn’t reached everyone yet, and when there were financial stressors on a family, college was a completely ludicrous idea.  So, those women married, and followed the ideals of the fifties.  They pleased their husband by cooking and cleaning.  They tried to look pretty for them.

1950

Someone I see on a weekly basis often likes to tell me, “You women are lucky today.”  And he’s right.  Choices for my Nana and mother were limited – and they, perhaps, didn’t have the time or energy to love their reflection because they were too busy cooking or working or cleaning.  Also, they didn’t know they even had a RIGHT to challenge old, patriarcal beliefs because they had been taught to not question things like that.

My mother, however, had a streak of hippie in her (even though she denies it).  She was an attachment mother before there were attachment mothers, she organized church food drives for the hungry, and she was a bleeding heart who took her patients home on weekends from the Fernald State School to get a respite from the horror.  Her compassion – despite ARDUOUS circumstances that I will keep private – inspired me to choose the career road I walk down today.  It spurred me to get an education that furthered my liberal, feminist beliefs, and challenged me to look beyond what I had been conditioned to believe about my body.  And I’m sure her mother had an effect on her character, in some way.  But that’s her story to tell.

What am I saying?

Even if we have a conflictual relationship with them – even if they hate their body and you learned that as a result of being around them –

Let’s thank the women who came before us.

Without them, we wouldn’t be able to be the fantastic individuals we are today.  Maybe you’re completely different from your mother because you felt angry with her and wanted to rebel.  Well, your fabulous rebellious self?  Thank your mother for that.  Or maybe you’re a carbon copy of your mother, who spends half her time cooking organic food and the other half volunteering for the homeless.  Either way, they have an effect on our personalities – and our body image.  

All I know is, I feel absolutely gorgeous when I wear my Nana’s scarf.

How have the women in your life affected your body image?

 

(1950’s ad provided by Molly Treanor’s blog.  Check her out!)

Trayvon, Feminism, and Other Light Topics

images 8I could be wrong, but I bet a bunch of us feel unsettled yet again by the latest news.  Trayvon.  His killer goes free.  A woman in FL gets 20 years because she shot a gun in self-defense.  Like my wise friend said, “Were we really surprised by this?”  No, we weren’t…but we’re still saddened over it.

And…I’m going to save my specific opinions on these topics for those unlucky enough to be my facebook friends…but it got me thinking.  About being judged by your appearance.

And before I go, let me clarify:  I know nothing about being black.  I try to, but cannot even imagine the silent injustices one experiences on a daily basis if you are.  So, can I say, “I know exactly how you feel!”  No, no I do not.  But I do know how it is to be judged on your appearance, and that’s how I  *try* to identify.  I also know what it’s like to be in a gender that is still viewed as unequal.  Case in point:

It was 2002, and I was working at a large ice cream store in a nearby town.  I did some admin work for the company; I was basically an assistant who did the menial work while I was home from college.  I, despite being unhealthy at times, have always took pride in my appearance, and dressed up every day for work.  Skirts, dresses, heels.  Nothing inappropriate, just tasteful.  Since I didn’t work in the ice cream stand, I didn’t have to wear shorts and sneakers, so I didn’t.  Just wasn’t my style.

One day, my friend and boss came over to me and whispered something I’ll never forget.

“Amanda, the big boss (names have been hidden) wants you to stop wearing dresses and skirts because the boys are getting distracted by you.”

Legit.

And can I tell you?  Not that it matters, but I’ve never been a risque dresser.  (I use the word risque because I hate the word slut because….it’s a discriminatory female word.)  No plunging necklines, no skirts above the knees.  Just a crotchety old elderly female owner who came from another time and wanted to set me back 50 years, too.  (And, she was probably jealous.)

Never MIND that men actually do have accountability when it comes to the question of, “Hey, should I drool over that woman I find attractive?” or “Hmmm, maybe I should be professional and appropriate and buckle down to work.”  Which is what women have been doing for centuries while we smile on the inside about your charming sense of humor or bulging biceps.

Anyway, once again, I was sent the message, “Hide your body.”

And,

“It’s your fault.”

Which is funny, because there are sexual harassment laws which protect us today from situations like that.  Situations in which I could have been considered the victim if I was talked to, looked at or touched inappropriately.

Just like Trayvon was the victim.  And again, it’s his fault.

Because of appearance.

And so many people will try to contest that he wasn’t a purely innocent victim, that he fought back…because the people with power don’t want to work hard and look at the fact that we’re stuck in the 1950’s in some ways.  Because they’ve never had to.

What’s your take on all of this?

Dear Media: Stop Trying to Kill My Sisters.

Dear Media,

I woke up this morning to a picture my friend had posted (mockingly) of a “Get Beach Ready!” article in some beauty magazine.  In it, the first tip suggested,

“BAN STRETCH MARKS.”

stretch marks

and I say –

Go fuck yourself.  That’s right.  You heard me.

Stretch marks have nothing to do with beauty; in fact, I think they have a lot to do with skin elasticity.  So stop trying to attach moral value to stretch marks.

Or anything else body-related for that matter.

Media, did you know eating disorders are the deadliest mental health illness?  Bypassing alcoholism?


death

Well yes, they are.  And you are contributing to many a woman’s death, on a daily basis, all for your love of money.

Stop trying to kill my sisters.  Or my daughter, for that matter.

What if you, instead, chose to publish an un-airbrushed, average looking lady on your cover?  Might that young pre-teen you’re selling to have not chosen to go on a 500-calorie a day diet?  Maybe, maybe not.  Even if you’re not the direct cause, you’re part of the equation.

And when the women who don’t kill themselves via starvation give up on attaining that perfect ideal, they swing the other way.  They start binging, because they just as well might give up and “get fat because there’s no hope for me anyway.”  You may have heard of an epidemic called “obesity.”  You play a part in that.

binge

They buy into your bullshit because you’ve inundated them with false truths since the moment they were born.  Society’s values do a number on them too – “sweet, cute, Daddy’s little girl.”  Pushed down by the patriarchy as soon as they can breathe air.

Oh, and stop trying to kill our mothers.

The other day, I heard a husband joke about giving his wife 6 months post-partum to appear as if she never had a baby.  Behind the joking that made me want to stick a needle in my eye – there is truth.  A million of your articles have been dedicated to women pretending as if they never took part in assisting the human race in surviving.  Makes sense.

babyweight2

 

Keeping women insecure earns a lot of money for you.  How do you sleep at night?  How do you live with yourself?

Either way, it’s got to stop.  You make my new-mother friend feel like she should weigh less, you make my daughter the subject of weight stereotypes, and you make me feel like my genetic spider veins are little spindles of evil on my pasty-white, untanned-and-therefore-unappealing skin.

STOP.

(Another Piece of Cake realizes there are healthy ad campaigns out there, and applauds them!  Another Piece of Cake also realizes men are hit hard by the media too, but Another Piece of Cake only writes about women because she’s, well…a woman.)

Blissful Body Fridays: The “Perfect” Female Body

babbleI am LOVING this Friday’s Blissful Body Friday link.  This was sent to me by Jen R, a very hip, astute young lady I went to college with.  In this article, Serge Bielanko writes about the ever-changing female perfect-body-ideal.  I blogged about this in a past entrybut Serge Bielanko attached all these awesome pictures to illustrate the crazy, ephemeral change of what is supposed to be attractive.

Do you know why I included this as a Blissful Body Friday entry?  Because this article illustrates how beauty is so damn arbitrary.   Hate your broad back?  Wait until 2085, then it’ll be attractive to society.  Want to get surgery for your cellulite?  In 3546 it will be the tattoos of today.  For heaven’s sake, unibrows could be in style one day.

Do you know what I mean?  None of it fricking matters.

Give this website some hits!

Enjoy, and have a blissful Friday!

Blissful Body Fridays: How Being A Kid = Loving Your Body

Me, before I cared.
Me, before I cared.

In case you didn’t know, Good ol’ New England is having a heat wave; the temps are expected to hit 93 before the end of today.  So naturally, I went to Revere Beach this morning with my 17 month old daughter.  It was 85 degrees by 9 in the morning.  Crazy.

I grew up overhearing tales of the old Revere Beach from my mother; she regaled us with stories of cotton candy and vomit-inducing roller coaster rides with her cousin.  It’s nothing like it used to be; it used to be a resort area filled with amusements and fast food.  Now, after a couple of conspiracy-story fires that were set, it’s just quiet.  Which is fine.

I camped out right where the dry sand met the wet, mushy stuff.  My daughter wanted nothing to do with the cold, rolling waves, but loved the sand.  So she literally bathed in it.  While I was leaning over to make a sandturtle, she had dumped a pile of sand on her head.  A thick layer of sand coated her scalp.  I groaned inwardly, but laughed to myself.  Because the best thing that’s ever been taught to me was by my daughter – the art of letting go.  The art of getting messy and not caring what things look like.

Before I had her, I would spend 20 minutes on my eye makeup.  I would have long pedicures at home and just curl my hair for fun sometimes.  Now, I don’t have time for that stuff.  Which sucks, sometimes, but it’s great, in another way.

Why?

When you are eating a mud pie and smooshing it all over your face, you don’t care if your blue veins are showing through your pale Irish skin.  You’re having fun and marvelling at the fabulousness of having mud pie ALL OVER YOUR FACE.  When you’re throwing sand in the wind, you don’t pay attention to the cellulite on your thighs because you’re jumping in big, funny lunges to avoid getting sand in your eyes.  And when you’re picking up shells, you’re not caring about your untoned tummy, because you are collecting little magical treasures, one at a time.

Don’t get me wrong.  I still have control problems; you’d probably all laugh at my nighttime routine, which is OCD-esque and consists of this strange “sweep-the-entire-house-feed-the-cats-change-their-litterbox” routine.  But spending time has done wonders for my body image; I use my body in way more fun ways now than I ever did.

Do you remember that time?  Before you hit puberty and all hell broke loose?  When you made soup in the ground with sticks and leaves?  When you rode bikes just as fast as the neighborhood boys?  When girls were equal to boys and just as capable?

It’s still there.

You can still have it now.

Have a blissful Friday.

 

Media Mondays: The Abercrombie and Fitch Debacle

So by now we’ve all heard about the Abercrombie and Fitch ridiculousness.  Let’s review a couple of facts/key players.

There’s this guy, Mike Jeffries, the CEO of Abercrombie and Fitch –

mikejeffries

 

And he said this –

“In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids. Candidly, we go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely.”

He also said –

“I don’t want our core customers to see people who aren’t as hot as them wearing our clothing.”

And A&F does not provide women’s XL sizes OR pant sizes above a size 10.  Which is stupid, because people’s mere height can warrant a size 12, but I digress.

OK, so, the best point I can think of is the one my friend Brennan said.  She said something like, “I think the psychopathology is pretty clear here.”

She’s right.  I mean, he’s 65, and appears to have had a lot of plastic surgery done.  HE appears to be the one with the image problem, not US.

He reminds me a lot of the guy who wrote Maggie Goes On A Diet, which I blogged about here.  The guy who wrote that book had weight issues of his own at one point, if I remember correctly, and then proceeded to project his shit all onto 8 year old girls who should supposedly lose weight and then magically gain self-worth (basic plot of the book).

So, I’m guessing Mike Jeffries is the same.  Mike Jeffries was unpopular at some point, or was “fat”, or was “ugly”, and rose above it in his mind by changing his appearance and creating a company who markets only to the pretty person he’s always wanted to be.

So do we need to be mad at Mike Jeffries?

(Well, duh, at least a little bit.  I mean, I did scream, “BOYCOTT!   BOYCOTT!”  in front of the A&F store at the Burlington Mall, embarassing my boyfriend and brother – )

Not really.

Yup, that’s right.  We need to feel sorry for him.  Because somewhere, way below the money and power and Botox, there is a little boy who is screaming to be liked.  To be approved of.

And that’s his shit.  Not ours.  We are doing just fine.

(Image provided by roadtripparenting.wordpress.com)

 

shhh

Blissful Body Fridays: Things They Don’t Tell Fat Girls

Happy Friday, all!

So, my awesome feminist friend Maggie from college posted a link on her FB page recently.  It is from The Militant Baker,  a fab blog about body love, feminism, and cats (I’m a fan already).  In it, she acknowledges the nuances of the human body and shatters misconceptions about them.  My fave part?  “Everyone has rolls when they bend over. Everyone.”  Without further adieu, here is…

 

Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls…SO I WILL.

 

That’s it folks, short and sweet this Friday.  Have a good one!

Media Mondays: Too Fat to Cheer, My Ass

Welcome to Media Mondays, my weekly post on something ridiculous and stupid I spotted this week that involved the objectification of women’s bodies.  Please feel free to pass along stories you hear at any point; I will profile them on my blog.

 

******

 

This is Kelsey.  Kelsey dances for the Oklahoma Thunder.

kelsey

 

Kelsey was the subject of a literal poll taken by a literal news station (CBS Houston) regarding whether or not readers thought she was too fat to cheer.

Yup.

Since this story broke and it met a crapload of criticism, CBS Houston removed the post.  Who in their right mind approved this?  Someone from the 1950’s via a timewarp?

You know, the first thing I thought of was really inappropriate, but it’s what I thought and here it is:

It’s not like we’re posting pictures of white men and asking, “Do you think his dick is big enough to give him enough macho arrogance he has to embody to maintain his corporate asshole job?”

(So sue me.  It’s what I thought.)

I’m thinking society has fallen pretty low to have to post pictures of women’s bodies for ratings, probably KNOWING that it would cause a firestorm, probably KNOWING that blogs like mine would cover it.  They’re probably not that stupid.

(Or are they…?)

Argh.  And then there’s the “this is nobody’s business but her own” duh viewpoint.

When will we learn?

(Image provided by landthieves)